With its students on spring break and its admissions department seeking to raise the university's state-wide profile, St. Bonaventure agreed to travel to Rochester to play Wednesday night's crucial Atlantic-10 home game against St. Joseph's.
Count Marcus Posley among those who didn't mind the two-hour bus ride.
Posley would be content to play every game the rest of the season in Rochester after erupting for 47 points to help the Bonnies beat St. Joseph's 98-90 and take a giant step closer to an NCAA bid. The senior guard needed only 19 shots to match the highest scoring game by a Division I player this season and to come within four points of the school record of 51 set by Bob Lanier.
What helped Posley catch fire was that the St. Joseph's defense was so preoccupied with slowing down fellow guard Jaylen Adams after he torched the Hawks for 31 last month. That gave Posley the freedom he needed to create off the dribble, run off screens for catch-and-shoot jumpers and get in a rhythm.
"Going into the game, I think they were trying to take away Jaylen a little too much," Posley told Yahoo Sports. "He had the hot hand against them when we played in Philadelphia. That put me in position where I had a lot of 1-on-1 options, and I was able to take advantage of it."
Posley's high-scoring performance enabled St. Bonaventure (21-7, 13-4) to secure another badly needed quality win for its NCAA tournament resume. St. Joseph's entered the night tied for first place in the Atlantic 10 and on pace to earn a No. 8 or 9 seed on Selection Sunday.
Now in a three-way tie for second place in the Atlantic 10 with only a road game at St. Louis remaining, St. Bonaventure has realistic hope of joining the Hawks in the field of 68. A lack of notable non-conference wins hurts the Bonnies, as do league losses to Duquesne and La Salle, but St. Bonaventure has atoned for that with a home win over George Washington, a road win at Dayton and now a sweep of St. Joseph's.
"This was a big win, but we have to have the mindset that we need to keep winning," Posley said. "We never feel like we've done enough. Being at Bonaventure, you have to demand respect. Nothing is going to be handed to us."
That St. Bonaventure is within striking distance of a second NCAA bid in four years is remarkable considering the challenges that program faces year after year. The Bonnies have the third lowest enrollment in Division I, an aging 50-year-old multi-purpose arena and the Atlantic 10's most threadbare budget.
Other schools lean on legions of donors to fund the construction of glittering new arenas or state-of-the-art practice facilities. St. Bonaventure coach Mark Schmidt recently sent out an email thanking his 19 top-tier boosters for money that paid for a new refrigerator in the locker room, gear for the players and catered pregame meals.
Recruiting to remote Olean, N.Y. would be difficult for Schmidt even if he did have a bottomless budget.
That part of New York doesn't consistently produce much Atlantic 10-caliber talent, so the Bonnies often have to identify under-the-radar out-of-state prospects and persuade them to come to a school they've often never heard of before. Key players on the 2015-16 roster include once-overlooked prospects who hail from far-flung places like Carson, Calif., Baltimore, Md., and Snellville, Ga.
Posley's circuitous, obstacle-laden path to college stardom is quintessential St. Bonaventure.
An all-state player as a junior at Winnebago High in Illinois, Posley transferred high schools before his senior year but had to sit out his final season as a result. That limited his recruiting options and led to him accepting a scholarship from Ball State, where he stayed one season before leaving after the head coach who signed him was fired.
From there, Posley went to star-studded Indian Hills Community College, where he averaged a highly efficient 13.5 points despite logging only 18 minutes per game. Schmidt beat out a handful of higher-profile schools for Posley's services because the 6-foot-1 Illinois native relished the chance to finally play a big role and viewed St. Bonaventure's system as a good fit for himself.
"I knew I could have a big impact at this university," Posley said. "I didn't just want to go to a high-major school and sit on the bench. I wanted to find a type of school like this that fit the type of player I am and that would allow me to thrive. I'm able to have the ball in my hands a lot more here and our offense spaces a lot of things out, which opens up opportunities for myself and my teammates."
Last season, Posley led St. Bonaventure in scoring at 16.7 points per game, though his 38.2 percent shooting left something to be desired. He has increased his scoring average to 18.3 points per game this season while also shooting a slightly higher percentage and doing a better job distributing to his teammates.
Posley, Adams and Dion Wright form maybe the Atlantic 10's most feared scoring trio. Those three combine for 53 points per game, fueling an offense that ranks in the top 30 nationally.
Posley was at his best Wednesday night when he sank 15 of 19 shots to help St. Bonaventure build a 13-point halftime lead and then hold off a late St. Joseph's rally. While the 47-point outburst gives Posley confidence heading into the postseason, he does have one request.
"I wouldn't mind if we played the whole A-10 tournament in Rochester," he joked, and the way he shot Wednesday night, who could blame him?
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